Robert Barany (April 22¡B1876 ¡V April 8¡B1936) was an Austrian physician of Hungarian-Jewish descent. For his work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular apparatus of the ear he received the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Barany was born in Vienna. He attended medical school at Vienna University¡Bgraduating in 1900. As a doctor in Vienna¡BBarany was syringing fluid into the inner ear of a patient to relieve the patient's dizzy spells. The patient experienced vertigo and nystagmus (involuntary eye movement) when Barany injected fluid that was too cold. In response¡BBarany warmed the fluid for the patient and the patient experienced nystagmus in the opposite direction. Barany theorized that the endolymph was sinking when it was cool and rising when it was warm¡Band thus the direction of flow of the endolymph was providing the proprioceptive signal to the vestibular organ. He followed up on this observation with a series of experiments on what he called the caloric reaction. The research resulting from his observations made surgical treatment of vestibular organ diseases possible. Barany also investigated other aspects of equilibrium control¡Bincluding the function of the cerebellum.
He served with the Austrian army during World War I as a civilian surgeon and was captured by the Russian Army. When his Nobel Prize was awarded in 1914¡BBarany was in a Russian prisoner of war camp. He was released in 1916 following diplomatic negotiations with Russia conducted by Prince Carl of Sweden and the Red Cross. He was then able to attend the Nobel Prize awards ceremony in 1916¡Bwhere he was awarded his prize. From 1917 until his death he was professor at Uppsala University.
Robert Barany was born on April 22¡B1876¡Bin Vienna. His father was the manager of a farm estate and his mother¡BMaria Hock¡Bwas the daughter of a well-known Prague scientist¡Band it was her intellectucal influence that was most pronounced in the family. Robert was the eldest of six children. When he was quite young he contracted tuberculosis of the bones¡Bwhich resulted in permanent stiffness of his kneejoint. It is thought that this illness first led him to take an interest in medicine. The disability¡Bhowever¡Bdid not prevent him from playing tennis and walking in the mountains¡Bright through his life. He was always top of the form - in the primary school¡Bthe grammar school¡Band was among the best of his year even at the university.After completing his medical studies at Vienna University in 1900¡BBarany attended the lectures of Professor C. von Noorden in Frankfurt am Main for one year¡Band then studied at the psychiatric-neurological clinic of Professor Kracpelin in Freiburg i.Br. It was there that his interest in neurological problems was first awakened. On his return to Vienna he became the pupil of Professor Gussenbauer¡Bthe surgeon¡Band finally¡Bin 1903¡Baccepted a post as demonstrator at the Otological Clinic under Professor Politzer. He followed up the theories of Flourens¡BPurkinje¡BMach¡BBreuer and others¡Band clarified the physiology and pathology of human vestibular apparatus. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in this field in 1914. The news of this award reached Barany in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp; he had been attached to the Austrian army as a civilian surgeon and had tended soldiers with head injuries¡Bwhich fact had enabled him to continue his neurological studies on the correlation of the vestibular apparatus¡Bthe cerebellum and the muscular apparatus. Following the personal intervention of Prince Carl of Sweden on behalf of the Red Cross¡Bhe was released from the prisoner-of-war camp in 1916 and was presented with the Nobel Prize by the King of Sweden at Stockholm.Barany returned to Vienna the same year¡Bbut was bitterly disappointed by the attitude of his Austrian colleagues¡Bwho reproached him for having made only incomplete references in his works to the discoveries of other scientists¡Bon whose theories they said his work was based. These attacks resulted in Barany leaving Vienna to accept the post of Principal and Professor of an Otological Institute in Uppsala¡Bwhere he remained for the remainder of his life. Holmgren and a number of famous Swedish otologists published a paper in defence of Barany.During the latter part of his life Barany studied the causes of muscular rheurmatism¡Band continued working on a book dealing with this subject even after he had suffered a stroke and was partially paralysed. Barany married Ida Felicitas Berger in 1909. They had two sons; the elder became Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Uppsala¡Bhis brother Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Caroline Institute¡BStockholm. They also had a daughter¡Bwho married a physician and lives in the U.S.A.He died at Uppsala on April 8¡B1936.
From Nobel Lectures¡BPhysiology or Medicine 1901-1921¡BElsevier Publishing Company¡BAmsterdam¡B1967
This autobiography/biography was first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document¡Balways state the source as shown above.
Nobel Lectures¡BPhysiology or Medicine 1901-1921¡BElsevier Publishing Company¡BAmsterdam¡B1967